Catholic Schools

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    I write the education blog, and I am a graduate of Catholic schools. I note that my alma mater is thriving, with continuing financial challenges, but still has a waiting list and a great reputation. Near me, Catholic schools are consolidating and closing.

    What makes a parochial school work? What contributes to the closings we are seeing here in the north east? What makes a Catholic High School strong, and what makes it weak? Are you seeing a lot of non Catholics attending, and if so, how does that affect the religious education experience? I want to write some items in the blog about religious schools, and am looking for experiences and ideas.

    My high school years were spent in an all girls school – and I think that is a great thing for women. One of the alumni told me that her husband says he can always spot a woman who went to our high school because she has a certain look. He says – “you all look SMART!”



    I also went to an all girls Catholic school and am grateful for the experience. My friends at that school were definitely smarter academically than most of my public school friends. The school has a 98% rate of students going on to graduate from college. Unfortunately, most are now co ed. I would love the all girls experience for my daughters. I think the girls are more into academics when the boys are out of the picture and feel free to show their smarts.

    Our oldest 2 attend Catholic school now. We LOVE their school and they are doing very well academically. In addition, they have a tremendous knowledge about God and religion that I just love. I like that religion and prayer are a part of their every day life, rather than just at home. The academics at their school (even in K and 2nd grade) are far better than the local public school has to offer.

    I think part of the problem with declining enrollment in some areas is due, in part, to rising tuition. My mom and I talked about how this has changed over the years. When she was a kid, her parents didn’t have to pay for school. The nuns taught every grade and teacher salaries weren’t an issue. When I was a kid, she did have to pay tuition, but it was a fraction of what it is now. We had about 50/50 nuns to teachers in our school. Now, there are only 2 nuns from Pre K to 8th grade in our school. Tuition gets higher every year. For us, it is well worth what we pay to educate our kids, but I do know 2 families who had to move to public because they couldn’t afford the tuition.



    It’s just the opposite where I am. People are pulling their kids out of the public system in droves and the Catholic High school is now taking in non-Catholics, something that would have seldom happened. The school has a very high success rate in the final year, and even other private schools are losing students to the Catholic school. I think discipline is a big issue, plus the obvious drawcard of the excellent success rate. The school is run by religious brothers, and although they form the minority of the staff by far, it seems to have an influence. It’s also had the flow-on effect of building up numbers in the elementary feeder schools, as preference is given to children educated in the Catholic system over kids from the public system.



    It seems to be a question of geography, and also competitiveness of public schools. If you are in an area where tuition is a problem and the public schools compare favorably, there seems to be decline. If you are in an area where people are desparately looking for solutions, Catholic education can be one alternative people turn to, even if they are not Catholic.

    I had some interesting comments from the alumni/admissions director of my alma mater in Fl – look for these in the education blog in the next few days.



    I can’t choose a Catholic/public/private school for my kids: they’re taught Catholicism in school, but we’re a Catholic country. So I’m curious about the Catholic schools in America— are they still managed by, and staffed with, people who belong to religious orders?
    Or are more and more lay people now replacing them?
    I mentioned the decline in vocations in another thread and suppose that this may be yet another consequence. If hiring lay people drives up tuition fees, causing the school to lose students, that’s a sad result.
    So what’s the MAIN reason most parents who send their children to Catholic school do so? Is it the education, or the religion? Or the discipline, as someone already mentioned?



    Here in Canada, and most specifically Ontario, where I teach, we have the Public school and Separate (Catholic) school systems available. The staff is made up primarily of practicing Catholics (including myself), as well as other practicing religious people. (Our school in particular has a very faithful member of the Sikh community.)

    As for whether it’s a better education, I’m not sure. In Ontario we have to follow a strict curriculum regardless of what school we’re teaching in because it’s directed by the government. However, many parents still believe that their child receives better discipline in our system.



    Hi Brownie!
    Catholic schools Kindergarten – eighth grade in the US used to be run pretty much exclusively by religious orders in cooperation with a parish priest under diocesan authority. Now parochial schools may have religious in the administration, but most teachers are lay people. Many are practicing Catholics, some are not, depending on the subject area.

    High schools are more often tied to specific religious orders and are under diocesan authority.

    Tuition is a huge problem, but it is not insurmountable in many areas. I think you need a surrounding Catholic community which values having a specifically Catholic education (I see more of this in Miami where I grew up than here in the northeast) and schools need to aggressively find ways to make tuition affordable or have financial aid available. This is not easy on the parochial level, but successful Catholic high schools have development offices, just as any private school or university does.

    Near me, in NJ, some parochial schools have merged, and while this is problematic for some, it tends to result in a stronger institution. What is also important in a parochial school is the availability of before and after care, and transportation/walking distance. People will sacrifice many things to send their kids to parochial schools, but not their jobs!

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